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The Daily Tar Heel

Doherty Returns to Rivalry

--Matt Doherty, 1984

Matt Doherty made his last appearance at Cameron Indoor Stadium as a North Carolina player on Jan. 21, 1984.

Three days before the contest, Doherty, who is from East Meadow, N.Y., poked some fun at the Cameron Crazies -- and himself.

Doherty angered Duke's fans with his comments, but UNC coach Dean Smith upset counterpart Mike Krzyzewski even more by repeatedly arguing with officials and jumping around on the sidelines during the Tar Heels' 78-73 win.

Doherty returns to Durham tonight and will still play the role of the villain. Only this time, he'll be the one dancing around in front of the UNC bench.

"He still has a love for the game, and that love for the game goes far beyond being a coach," UNC senior Brendan Haywood said. "He still has that burning desire to be a player because he loves the game that much."

Doherty has learned a little self-restraint in the last 17 years. He hasn't provided any barbs for Duke fans to pin up inside their tents in Krzyzewskiville.

The Crazies will be ready, though. Doherty expects to see quite a few T-shirts explaining just how low he was on the list of candidates to replace Bill Guthridge. Doherty said he enjoys that kind of interaction with students, especially the ones that fill Cameron.

"It's a great place to play -- I think we should look at it from that perspective," Doherty said. "It's a great environment to play college basketball. I haven't seen one of the Cameron Crazies come out and block a shot yet or steal the ball."

Doherty will get his first view of the rivalry as a head coach tonight. If the initial performances of his two recent predecessors are any indication, Doherty and the Tar Heels will have their hands full.

Smith led UNC into battle against Duke for the first time on Feb. 3, 1962. The Blue Devils beat the Tar Heels 79-57, starting a string of seven consecutive losses for Smith against Duke.

Guthridge coached his first game against the Blue Devils on Feb. 5, 1998, when UNC beat Duke 97-73. But the Tar Heels lost six of their final seven games against Duke with Guthridge at the helm.

Doherty, who was part of eight wins in 10 games against Duke as a player, knows he will be judged by his team's performances against its rival 8 miles up U.S. 15-501. Maybe that's why the first two game films he studied after accepting the UNC job were the two contests against Duke from a year ago.

"There is that fear of failure," Doherty said. "I think about playing Duke a lot. Not just this week, I've thought about it in the summertime. To me, it makes you raise your level."

The byproduct of that approach has become apparent as the season has progressed. Duke and UNC are squaring off with 7-0 records in the ACC for the first time.

Doherty's first shot at Duke should be just the start of many classic battles between Krzyzewski and him.

"It's safe to say you guys will have a lot to write about when it comes time for the Duke/Carolina game," UNC junior Kris Lang told reporters Tuesday. "I believe Coach Doherty is a great coach, and he's on the rise. I guess you could say he's bringing the program back to where it was, if it did decline at all."

Doherty is bringing it back to where it was when he was a player, when the Tar Heels routinely beat the Blue Devils. Back when he could get caught up in the frenzy surrounding the action on the Cameron court.

"I think for me it's kind of going full circle," Doherty said. "It's neat to have been in this rivalry as a player and now as a coach. As a coach, you worry about a lot more things than you do as a player."

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